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Wide right 3

For the third time since 1991, FSU misses a last-second field goal to allow the Hurricanes to hang on.

By BRIAN LANDMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 8, 2000


MIAMI -- Maybe some of the Miami fans in the upper deck of the Orange Bowl knew that the good old days of the Hurricanes' rivalry against Florida State were back.

photo
[Times photo: Joseph Garnett Jr.]
Matt Munyon has nowhere to hide after his 49-yard miss sends Miami faithful into celebration.
There, draped over a ledge in the northeast corner, hung a homemade sign that conjured their most vivid memories of a game that often shaped the national championship picture and their hopes for an equally exciting sequel:

"Welcome to Wide Right 3."

Hmm. Maybe they knew something.

Just as in 1991 and 1992 when Florida State missed last-second field goals wide to the right, the Hurricanes survived again Saturday afternoon against the top-ranked Seminoles in hauntingly familiar fashion.

This time, redshirt freshman placekicker Matt Munyon saw his last-second 49-yard field goal drift a couple of feet awry in that direction to seal a dramatic 27-24 Miami win in front of 80,905 that hearkened to yesteryear in more ways than one.

The No. 7 'Canes (4-1) are back from NCAA sanctions that left the proud program a perennial also-ran in the Big East Conference, and they're back in the national title hunt.

"It is a great victory for our club," said Miami coach Butch Davis, who was 0-5 against FSU. "It is one we really worked for and wasn't an accident. We worked for it and earned it."

"If they had not beaten us, everybody would have said, "They're not back yet,' there's no doubt about it," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "But today, they proved that give them 85 scholarships like anybody else and they can be as good as anybody else."

And they can, once again, leave his Seminoles (5-1) on the fringe of the national championship race.

"Yes, we can win a national championship," he said. "We'd have to have help and there'd have to be some luck involved."

As was the case in 1991, when Gerry Thomas missed a 34-yard field goal with less than 30 seconds left to seal a 17-16 loss, and in 1992, when Dan Mowery missed a 39-yarder that could have tied the score at 19, the Seminoles could have used a bit of fortune at the end. But from his angle on the sideline, Bowden thought his kicker had come through.

Despite the history, he didn't even think about Munyon adding a new chapter to FSU infamy.

"He's been wide left all year," he said of Munyon, a walk-on who had made 2 of 5 field goals entering the game and had missed a 22-yard attempt in his usual way earlier in a wild fourth quarter.

"I hit it hard; I knew I hit it hard enough," Munyon said.

"He really stroked it," holder Keith Cottrell said. "It would have been good from 55. ... When it left my hand, it sounded good off his foot."

But about halfway en route through the sticky Miami afternoon, the ball stopped hooking to the left as the right-footer had intended and began fading ever so slowly to the right.

Deja vu all over again.

"It's obviously going to be hard, but I have to put it behind me or I'll never be able to kick again," a sanguine Munyon said. "So, I can't think about this. I have to go to the next game and do my best."

"I know Florida State fans are probably stunned more right now than I am," senior tight end Ryan Sprague said. "They had to live through the other two. It's not Munyon's fault. It's tough to lose a game like that. You're talking about an emotional gauntlet. You think you've won it and you end up losing."

The Seminoles could have and perhaps should have jumped out to a big lead on Miami, but the offense sputtered several times just as it seemed ready to score.

Senior quarterback Chris Weinke, who sprained ligaments in his left midfoot during the Maryland game nine days earlier and couldn't put pressure on the foot on Monday, got the start but admittedly was far from 100 percent. Twice Miami stopped FSU on fourth-and-short running plays, once from the 16 after Miami fumbled the opening kickoff and once from the 13.

"It was pretty sore," said Weinke, who threw two interceptions near the goal line, one by senior middle linebacker Dan Morgan in the final minute of the half.

That preserved Miami's stunning 17-0 lead. FSU last failed to score in the first half in its 1988 season opener at Miami. The Seminoles, ranked No. 1 then, came to town full of bluster -- remember their rap song? -- only to fall behind 17-0 at the half en route to a humbling 31-0 loss.

"We did challenge them at halftime," Bowden said. "They put 17 points on us and now is an opportunity to show everybody we can come back and win."

Time and time again in their run to the 1999 national title, Weinke rallied the Seminoles. This season, the Heisman Trophy candidate had already shown his trademark unflappability against Georgia Tech, and he was at it again.

Following an 18-yard Munyon field goal early in the third quarter, Weinke hit sophomore receiver Anquan Boldin for a 48-yard touchdown. Miami answered with a 37-yard Todd Sievers field goal and seemingly had the game in hand until Weinke erased the deficit. He threw a 2-yard strike to Boldin with 3:15 left in the game and then, after a Miami fumble, a 29-yard touchdown to Atrews Bell with 1:37 left.

"I knew that if we threw completions and moved down the field, working our tight end, we would be successful," said Miami sophomore quarterback Ken Dorsey, who never appeared rattled and rarely threatened by FSU's vaunted pass rush.

Dorsey, who hit 27 of 42 passes for a career-high 328 yards, hit backup tight end Jeremy Shockey three times on a brilliant seven-play, 68-yard drive in 51 seconds. He capped it with a 13-yard strike to Shockey for the lead, setting the stage for another nail-biting finish that ended in all-too familiar fashion.

Another wide right.

Just like the sign said.

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